Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) Files Highly Questionable Defamation Suit

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47 Responses

  1. Peter H says:

    I'm not expert on Texas civil procedure, but it seems like Stockman is opening himself up to extremely damaging depositions in the middle of an election campaign.

    Basically, he is saying to his political enemies: you can question me under oath about my past including any ethical or legal problems in a highly adversarial context. This is, to put it mildly, a stupid thing to do.

  2. roadgeek says:

    He's an idiot. Long-time clown from way back, who will do anything to drum up free publicity to help an underfunded Senate campaign. I don't care for John Cornyn, but I don't care for Steve Stockman even more. Stockman is crazy like a fox, who knows precisely what he's doing.

  3. Matthew Cline says:

    Perhaps Stockman means to suggest that it's reckless to take a Member of Congress at his word, an argument with some appeal.

    Maybe he's claiming that not only newspapers lied about him, but that they're so well known for lying that it's a reckless disregard for the truth to rely on them?

  4. Note the answer from the defendant here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/207180591/Tcm-Pac-Answer

    Salient last line: "Defendant, Texans for A Conservative Majority, hereby demands a trial by jury."

    Who in their right minds would want a trial by jury when this can be tossed out with a motion to dismiss? Anyone consider the possibility that this bogus lawsuit and its bogus response are a veiled mechanism for Cornyn to reimburse Stockman for pretending to run for Senate?

    Settle out of court for an undisclosed sum… voila! No FEC reporting.

  5. nlp says:

    Stockman, meet Streisand. Streisand, meet Stockman.

    In looking at the complaint, it looks a little thin. Don't most plaintiffs explain exactly what the statement was, rather that pulling out a few phrases here and there? And state exactly when the deplorable lies were first published?

    I'll sending out for the popcorn.

  6. Xennady says:

    As for the felony charge, that stemmed from the time his girlfriend hid three Valium tablets in his underpants when he was reporting for a weekend in jail. “When they found that they charged me with a felony,” he told the Houston Chronicle.

    If you aren't even responsible enough to manage your own underpants you probably don't belong in the Senate. Or Congress. Or Walmart. Or any other job with power over anything more dangerous than a spork.

    At least he'll be out of Congress when he gets done making a fool out of himself.

  7. anne mouse says:

    Avenger, if they'd neglected the actual defenses, then your conspiracy theory might have some plausibility. But they didn't. They just tagged that jury demand on at the end, as lawyers usually do. In case the judge is a blind idiot and lets the suit proceed, it's best to take your chances with a jury, if only because that's more expensive for the plaintiff. But this case will be dismissed pronto, so the jury demand is irrelevant.

    I'm not up on Texas procedure. In this Answer the defendants move that the case be dismissed with "costs" borne by the plaintiff. In most jurisdictions, attorney's fees are separate. I assume they can still get them, by filing a separate motion invoking the SLAPP statute.

  8. It sounds like he has the same lawyer as that guy suing Ace, Erickson, Simon & Schuster, et al. (And yes, I know the plaintiff in that is representing himself.)

  9. Charles says:

    Steve Stockman isn't afraid of a fees judgment. It's just another campaign expense he won't pay.

  10. Brandon says:

    This would be a great opportunity to bring up an important bit of early American legal history: the Zenger trial.

  11. Dustin says:

    Oh, it's pretty clear what Stockman is doing. He is being ridiculous in order to get a lot of attention. He doesn't have a shot at winning the race without a lot more attention than he's been getting.

    This is a foolish way of getting that attention, though probably not as foolish as some here think because he will drop the case before he's deposed and before the fees really rack up.

    but foolish only covers half the issue. We should enjoy broad rights to criticize crappy politicians. Isn't that what the race against a guy like John 'Suspend the Debt Ceiling' Cornyn is all about? So few of these politicians really seem to care about our rights or about integrity. Any defamation suit that says 'the truth is no defense' is automatically evil. Also, smuggling pills into jail? Why is this guy a Representative from Texas?

  12. Spacemanmatt says:

    Unfortunately, this sort of thing plays well with the daytime drama crowd that follows politics, aka Texan voters. The standard reckoning is, if he went to the trouble of filing a lawsuit, he must have had *something* and that is almost as good as a win in the court of public opinion.

  13. DeadLenny says:

    Damn, but dude's kind of an idiot.

    When I saw "felony arrest" I was hoping for nice juicy Billy Sol Estes-style shenanigans. What do I get? Three fuckin' Valium in his pants. First of all, duh, buddy, they search you when you're going into jail, even if it's just you doing your weekend time. (Although it must be a Texas — excuse me, Michigan — thing to call it a felony and keep it there. In California the judge will knock it down to a misdemeanor nearly out of reflex, call you a stupid knob, and tack on another fifteen days.)

    Besides, with Stockman, you're looking at two different scenarios here. If he's got a pill habit for something as boring as Valium, suck it up and make it through the weekend straight. If he can't, then um, it's time to start going to meetings. ("God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change…")

    And if Stockman had a legit scrip, all he has to do is get a doctor's note and copy it — one for the judge (who he'll need to visit), one for the jail — and bring his drugs with him. They'll dispense his drugs according to what the MD says. Not a big deal, certainly not anything that can't be overcome with a little planning ahead.

    Now he's suing people for announcing, "Steve Stockman was something of a party gladiator in his youth." The correct response is, "Yeah, so? What's your point? Hey, he who casts the first stone, and all that," and then let it drop. Laugh it off: when asked about it, shrug, chuckle, and say, "Yep, I was a bit wild when I was still a kid," and change the subject. We've got a president who spent a lot of time with his face stuck on the bong, nobody's gonna care about some transplant Texan who was tearing it up at the same age.

    But no, he's gotta make a big deal out of it; all he's doing is prolonging his problem, which was just a molehill to begin with. Pfft. Wotta maroon.

  14. En Passant says:

    I, for one, welcome our new ten gallon hat wearin', Obama impeachin', felonious goofballs in underpants Senatorial candidate overlords.

  15. Jack Burden says:

    A jury demand has nothing to do with anything. A frivolous case can be tossed just as quickly with a jury demand.

  16. Deathpony says:

    So is this what it has come to, the only way to ignite a terminally stillborn campaign is to metaphorically set your own hair on fire to attract fellow lunatics to feed your vanity bonfire with crisp twenties?

  17. Narad says:

    The defendants ought to introduce Steve Stockman and his lawyer to Texas' new and vibrant anti-SLAPP statute

    And yet the Wakefield appeal languishes.

  18. Basil. Forthrightly says:

    For those of you outside of Texas who need a clue, Stockman's mostly concerned about March 4th, when regular voting for the Texas primaries is held (we're currently having early voting, wherein about 40% of the vote will be cast).

    Stockman is desperate to edge out Dwayne Stovall in a multi-way race for the nomination for John Cornyn's seat, hoping he can then get Stovall's voters and win a run-off against Cornyn in a low-turnout election.

    Cornyn meanwhile is desperate to get to 50% and avoid a run-off.

  19. NI says:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but that's what they elect to Congress in Texas. I'm generally not in favor of states seceding, but we would lose some truly awful members of Congress if Texas ever actually did.

  20. marco73 says:

    Good Lord, why can't we get colorful politicians like that here in Florida?
    Election season really hasn't started, so all we have is a special election starring Alex Sink, who is so boring that paint refuses to dry in her presence.
    And for Governor, we have Repub turned Democrat Charlie Crist, who is so bland even his hair is vanilla. This guy has changed coats so much he has to travel with his own coat rack.
    Thanks, I'll be here all week. Try the veal.

  21. Darryl says:

    The firm representing him is the one that sued a former associate:

    https://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/2002/mar/000081.htm

  22. Darryl says:

    And the Defendant's attorney is noted criminal defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin.

  23. Darryl says:

    This is funny. From Stockman's law firm's website: "Many lawsuits might seem frivolous. . ."

    http://www.bplaw.com/focus-areas/litigation-lawyer

  24. Phe0n1x says:

    I apologize on behalf of my state.

  25. A Different William says:

    Minor typo:

    Stockman has recently sued Texans for a Conservative Majority over their campaign ads and communications against them.

  26. rmd says:

    @marco73

    Good Lord, why can't we get colorful politicians like that here in Florida?

    I dunno, Alan Grayson is pretty colorful. And Charlie Crist is colorful — because orange is a color, right?

  27. En Passant says:

    Deathpony wrote Feb 23, 2014 @8:43 pm:

    So is this what it has come to, the only way to ignite a terminally stillborn campaign is to metaphorically set your own hair on fire …
    Where do you get that "metaphorical" business? They take politics real serious in Texas.

  28. Warren Vita says:

    Until Darryl looked it up, I assumed he was being represented by Mark Steyn. If it's not a strategic political move, which looks likely, he should check his drawers for something to help him chill out.

  29. JMJ says:

    Not sure if this is real, but it is appropriate. via reddit.

    http://bit.ly/1hLb6o5

    Sorry don't know how to embed images…

  30. CJColucci says:

    Don't most plaintiffs explain exactly what the statement was, rather that pulling out a few phrases here and there? And state exactly when the deplorable lies were first published?

    I can't speak to "most plaintiffs" or Texas procedure, but it's not just a good idea (in any state), it's the law (in some states). In NY, you are supposed to put the actual offending words in the complaint verbatim. In practice, there's a little bit of slack. If you attach a copy of the story and sufficiently point out where the language is, that will often do. You might even get away with a very close paraphrase and a citation to the original, though it's risky and if you're going to do that much work, you may as well do it right, which is usually easier.

  31. Pedro says:

    Maybe he plans to sue them in England.

  32. Chris M. says:

    What if the felony arrest has been expunged? Then he can legally say it never happened and the records of the arrest have all been destroyed. Technically, they would both be right.
    I haven't looked into this at all, but could that be the legal rationale behind the lawsuit? Not that it will carry the day, mind you.

  33. Ken White says:

    What if the felony arrest has been expunged? Then he can legally say it never happened and the records of the arrest have all been destroyed. Technically, they would both be right.
    I haven't looked into this at all, but could that be the legal rationale behind the lawsuit? Not that it will carry the day, mind you.

    No. For one thing, the "gist" or "sting" of the statement would be true, so it would not be defamatory under the "substantially true" doctrine. Second, expungement doesn't alter the timeline. It's still accurate and true to say that at one point he was charged with a felony.

  34. Matthew Cline says:

    @Ken:

    No. For one thing, the "gist" or "sting" of the statement would be true, so it would not be defamatory under the "substantially true" doctrine. Second, expungement doesn't alter the timeline. It's still accurate and true to say that at one point he was charged with a felony.

    I once heard someone speculate that, in such a case, the expungement would mean the mean the defendant would be barred from raising "it's true" as a legal defense, and thus would lose. So that's not the way it works?

  35. stavro375 says:

    @Expungement and "The truth is a defense"

    According to the Volokh Conspiracy (January 31, 2011, I'd post a link but don't want to look like a spammer) the New Jersey Supreme Court has actually addressed that question. At least in New Jersey, the fact that the charge was expunged from the record doesn't change the "metaphysical truth" (court's words) of a person's past.
    Eugene Volokh also noted an amicus brief made by EPIC arguing that "publicizing people’s now-expunged criminal convictions is tortious under the 'disclosure of private facts' tort," an argument which New Jersey courts rejected but which Texas courts might not…

    (The facts of that case are pretty similar to the facts of this one, actually — a candidate for state senator hired an aid with an expunged felony, political opponents publicized this fact, the aid sued for libel.)

  36. MrSpkr says:

    Anne mouse said:

    I'm not up on Texas procedure. In this Answer the defendants move that the case be dismissed with "costs" borne by the plaintiff. In most jurisdictions, attorney's fees are separate.

    In Texas, costs are different from attorney's fees. It includes, typically, filing fees, costs of service of citation, deposition costs, jury fees, and things of that nature.

    I assume they can still get [attorney's fees], by filing a separate motion invoking the SLAPP statute

    Yes. Tex.Civ.Prac. & Rem. Code § 27.009 requires a court ordering dismissal of a legal action under the SLAPP statutes to award the party moving for dismissal the party's "court costs, attorney's fees and other expenses incurred in defending against the legal action as justice and equity may require." The statute also requires the court award the moving party "sanctions against the party who brought the legal action as the court determines sufficient to deter the party who brought the legal action from bringing similar actions."

    As Ken has noted previously, Texas' anti-SLAPP law is fairly robust.

  37. Bryan says:

    That's pure bullshit, and the attorney who asserted it is either dishonest or an idiot.

    And these are mutually exclusive traits?

  38. Brandon wrote:

    This would be a great opportunity to bring up an important bit of early American legal history: the Zenger trial.

    Thanks for the suggestion. It seems that until that trial (1734), the truth was not a defense in a libel suit. Mind you, that was under an entirely different legal system – but it does seem to have established a precedent in English or U.S. Colonial law that did not exist prior to that date.

  39. Matthew Cline says:

    @stavro375:

    @Expungement and "The truth is a defense"

    According to the Volokh Conspiracy (January 31, 2011, I'd post a link but don't want to look like a spammer) the New Jersey Supreme Court has actually addressed that question.

    Thanks. Here's the link.

  40. I was Anonymous says:

    @rmd,

    Yes, orange is a color, but isn't it the case that Orange is the new black?

  41. Vicki says:

    Even if he can somehow convince a court that "it was expunged, it never happened," the person he's suing has the reasonable defense "Stockman told the Chronicle he'd been charged with a felony. Why would he say that if it wasn't true? Besides, it's not my job to fact-check the Chronicle."

  42. Veritas says:

    If I was on a jury Stockman would win. Felony? Come on, he's as guilty of a felony as my cat is. Arrested for what? Jaywalking? Pathetic.

  43. Ken in NJ says:

    If you aren't even responsible enough to manage your own underpants you probably don't belong in the Senate.

    This says pretty much everything that needs to be said about this douchecanoe

  44. Basil. Forthrightly says:

    Stockman's campaign is now asserting that publishing his mugshot is grounds for a criminal complaint.

    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/muckraker/stockman-mugshot-threat
    (With mugshot, of course.)

    As best I can tell from the article above, it seems that although Stockman's felony arrest was expunged, Wisconsin was still making records about it available. Sounds like Stockman ought to be suing Wisconsin instead of others who reasonably relied on public records.

  45. The Wanderer says:

    Just catching up to this discussion now (and not having read it in its entirety): Cornyn won the primary with 59% of the vote – meaning even if every single other vote went for Stockman, he still lost by at least 18 percentage points.

    Stockman is apparently planning to run again at some point, but for now, he appears to be out of public office.

  46. AlphaCentauri says:

    even if every single other vote went for Stockman, he still lost by at least 18 percentage points

    I wish that was because people thought he is a censorious douchebag and not because they thought having been busted for drugs in his youth is a deal-breaker. But I'm afraid his paranoia was probably well-founded.